Art appreciation and the brain.

Art appreciation and the brain.

 One popular idiom states that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Research from over the last fifty years in psychology and neuropsychology give evidence that aesthetic appreciation involves complex interactions among cognitive, sensorimotor and emotional systems. Although there is the recognition that various systems are involved, the exact underlying processes that support aesthetic appreciation still remains a mystery.


A recent study conducted in Italy tried to solve the neurological processes that are involved during aesthetic appreciation. Since the lateral occipital region is known to be involved with object recognition the current study focused on this region. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was utilised here because it allows for the temporary brain stimulation of a region, thus allowing for an investigation through causal means.


By applying TMS to the lateral occipital region the researchers found that interfering (through TMS) with the lateral occipital region during aesthetic appreciation selectively reduced the evaluation of representational paintings, leaving appreciation for abstract paintings unaffected. These findings show that the appreciation of different types of art are underpinned by different brain regions. This also demonstrates that object recognition mechanisms are mediated by the lateral occipital region which plays a causal role in aesthetic appreciation of representational art.

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Daniel Edgcumbe

I am studying towards my PhD in cognitive neuroscience at a leading London university

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